Perhaps it’s the catchy, rhyming name that makes Vicious Fishes intriguing. At least that’s what Ken O’Berry thought when he came up with the moniker as a 20-something grad student brewing beer at home.
Fast forward more than 25 years later. These days O’Berry and business partner Paul Miller own a taproom in Angier, another soon-to-open watering hole in Apex and an award-winning food-and-beverage outpost in downtown Fuquay-Varina. All three businesses fall under the same brand.
Vicious Fishes Brewery, Tap & Kitchen, a full-fledged gastropub, recently snagged Best New Restaurant in Wake County recognition from the readers of Indy Week. Pretty impressive for a place that’s only been open since December 2018.
“We are thrilled and humbled to have received this honor,” said O’Berry, a former Silicon Valley software specialist who now lives in Apex. “We’re also ecstatic that this concept is resonating and that our local market loves it. How can you go wrong pairing great food with great beer?”
Considering that up to 16 beers are on tap at any given time, the bar area at Vicious Fishes is a popular attraction. Flagship brew Here Be Dragons is an aromatic, New England-style IPA. Into the Abyss brown ale possesses chocolate, caramel and coffee notes. Crisp lager OctoPils pours as the traditional house pilsner.
Chief brewmaster John Federal deserves props for keeping the suds on point.
“All our beers are named with salty, nautical themes,” said O’Berry. “We do fruited sours, ales and even a light lager that is a 100-calorie beer.”
What’s also notable is how the kitchen uses the beers, such as Pilsner for steaming mussels, IPA when making pickles, and brown ale on roast beef and lamb.
“Our chef has a background in fermentation, which marries well with our beers,” said O’Berry.
When the proprietors chose to add food to the repertoire, they employed the go-big-or-go-home approach by hiring Ryan Miller. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Miller honed his chops at the renowned Momofuku Group of restaurants in New York.
“This town likes its burgers and wings, but it doesn’t really need more burgers and wings,” O’Berry said. “We wanted to bring something different, but still accessible, to south Wake. We’re providing eclectic twists on comfortable bar food.”
Feeling adventurous? Start with the snacks section of the menu. Order the beer-brined cured pickles comprising fennel, cauliflower, egg, beets and cucumber. The popular popcorn-style pork rinds and accompanying cheese dip are habit forming.
Move to the small plates and try the zesty Buffalo oysters (no crackers needed). For a distinctive salad, go for the grilled romaine with Calvander cheese, red onions, oranges and paprika croutons.
The kitchen’s wood-fired grill works perfectly for selections like the smoked cheddar and ham grilled cheese sandwich with green tomato chutney and the jerk-spiced chicken leg alongside coconut-braised collards and pineapple-fried plantain cake.
Whatever you do, though, don’t miss the sublime mole lamb shank tacos, a shareable dish that will not disappoint. Served with grilled flatbread, the meat is fork-tender, savory and unlike any lamb you’ve tasted elsewhere.
Although O’Berry said Fuquay didn’t need more burgers, be glad Vicious Fishes offers an Italian sausage burger on focaccia with provolone and pepper-fennel relish. It’s a surefire winner.
Dessert offerings vary, but if it’s available be sure to savor the blueberry-mulberry parfait with angel food cake and lemon poppy seed creme.
Vicious Fishes is open seven days a week for dinner. Lunch is available Friday through Sunday, and a weekend brunch includes offerings like huevos rancheros, eggs Benedict with country ham and grilled French toast.
132 S. Fuquay Ave., Fuquay-Varina
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